When Will We Ever Learn


When will we ever learn…? And, must we continue to up the anti with each generation?

Let’s go back to 1969, to the Santa Barbara oil spill when a disabled rig released 200,000 gallons of crude oil into the Santa Barbara Channel over eleven days. One barrel contains 42 gallons so that equals 4,761 barrels of crude. Just days after the spill began Get Oil Out (GOO) was founded. It is said the environmental movement was ignited as a result of the spill.

Santa Barbara reported that oil clogged the blowholes of dolphins causing massive lung hemorrhages. Seal carcasses floated up with the tide, having ingested the oil. By count, 3,600 birds were dead, not to mention countless fish and marine invertebrates.

This prompted a Congressional moratorium (12 years later) in 1981 on new offshore oil leasing, with the exceptions of the Gulf of Mexico and parts of offshore Alaska. In September 2008, the Environmental News Service stated,” Earlier this year, President Bush lifted an executive moratorium on oil and gas leasing offshore, so with the signing of this bill the petroleum industry is free to lease areas of the Outer Continental Shelf that have been off-limits for 27 years.”  

Twenty years after Santa Barbara, on March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil spill released an estimated 250,000 barrels into Prince William Sound, Alaska, 50 times more than the Santa Barbara spill. It covered 11,000 square miles of ocean and 1,300 miles of coastline. In addition to the previously mentioned sea life, this spill killed salmon, sea otters and other less visible critters. 

Although the ocean covers more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) less than five percent of the ocean has been explored to date. The NOAA says that finding new living marine resources and understanding how they fit into the larger ecosystem is critical to our future, but we are too busy destroying what we have, destroying our future. 

Along the Gulf Coast it has been the brown pelican and oysters getting most of the press, with mention to the shrimpers and other fishermen, but what about the whole ecosystem, from plankton and barnacles on up?

Today is day 84 of the BP oil blowout, as it should be called and was so described by Marine Conservationist Rick Steiner in an interview on MSNBC. “There is an inherent risk in this system which offshore oil companies have known for years,” said Steiner who was involved in all aspects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, 20 years previous. He said there needs to be an adequate blowout response plan instead of engineering, designing and experimenting with it during a blowout. To fail to manage this he said “is gross negligence on the part of the federal government.”

Almost simultaneously it was announced that President Obama had placed a new moratorium on offshore drilling.

Meanwhile, BP underestimated the amount of the spill from day one. A new cap to contain the oil could be in place today, if they succeed. The reason all this has taken so long the commentator said was because BP does not want people to know how much oil is spewing out because the information will up the price to them for damages from the blowout.

There just doesn’t seem to be much outrage that the blowout is despoiling the Gulf and its marine life possibly beyond redemption. Are we so inundated with big business machinations that we expect and accept them without protest?

The one bright spot in all of this to date was singing along with Jimmy Buffett and what looked to be between 10,000 and 50,000 fans at a free concert on the beach in Alabama yesterday. They covered the sand as far as the eye could see (kind of like the oil blowout estimated to be leaking between 10,000 and 50,000 barrels per day for the last 84 days).

Dressed in flowered surfer trunks, a yellow T-shirt on which was written “One Love, One Ocean,” barefoot and wearing sunglasses, Buffett brought breath of fresh air. “It was bound to happen when crud and greed appear,” he sang, “I hope that I’m around to see when the coast is clear.” As are we all.

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